Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.

I know ... I'm horrible! I kept procrastinating and procrastinating but every time I received a new review, I felt so bad so finally sat down and just finished it off. I hope that you all enjoyed this as much as I have in writing it. Just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who read and reviewed this - I'm always awed and humbled by how insightful and supportive everyone is.

Please do check out my other fics and I'm looking forward to my new venture into Harry Potter land...(yeah, I changed my mind about the Neji x Hinata fic, although I do still have the two chapters I've already written still in my computer.)


Itachi knew it was a trap.

The gossip was so rampant, so quickly spread considering the delicacy of the situation that it could not be otherwise. This pathetic little village with its self-righteous inhabitants…his lip curled in a rare, albeit faint, display of contempt.

"I heard that the Hyuuga heir was caught consorting with an S-class criminal!"

"The Hyuuga heir? I heard she's pretty weak. Do you think that's why she was hanging out with…wait, whose the guy again?"

"I have no idea but she must be pretty desperate to have to stoop to those levels. Thank goodness the Godaime has her locked up in the Tower right now. Who knows what kind of secrets she's revealed about Konoha already?"

The whispers grew fainter as the two teenagers walked away. Itachi's eyes narrowed at their retreating backs from his position in the forest on the edge of town as he considered the current situation. He had been in ANBU himself and he knew how it operated. It was highly unlikely for information regarding the specifics, and especially the holding of prisoners, to be common knowledge. He also doubted that the Hyuuga clan or the current Hokage would allow any accidental leaks of information that would unnecessarily damage the reputation of one of its inhabitants.

Soundlessly retreating to his temporary hideout within the Forest of Death, Itachi casually impaled a wandering snake with a kunai. He had not strayed far from Konoha since their last meeting. Atasuki had not needed him so the Uchiha did not even have the comparative luxury of focusing on something other than the thoughts that had been plaguing him relentlessly for the past few weeks.

"Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you force yourself to do things you don't mean?"

"Please, Itachi-san…yada…"

"Don't come near me again."

Glaring at the dead snake as if it was the instigator of his present turmoil, Itachi shut his eyes to block out the images floating in his mind. He had done it on purpose and he didn't regret it. Uchiha Itachi had no regrets. But, at the same time, he acknowledged that if he had been given the chance to relive that night, he might not have done the same thing over again.

Given the chance, he might not have approached her in the very beginning.

You're lying to yourself.

Frowning, Itachi mulled over the contradiction in his mind. The contradiction that was Hyuuga Hinata.

-o-O-o-

Hinata rubbed her arms absently. The sunlight streamed brightly across her face, but somehow, its warmth seemed to dissipate upon entering the cell.

How can it be so cold when it looks so warm?

The thought struck her as ironic. It seemed like she had been asking that question her entire life. Her father. Neji nii-san. Itachi-san. The realization was draining but she did not fight it. There was not much left to drain anyways.

"Go! Now!"

The sudden commotion outside her cell broke through the stillness in the air. Hinata got to her feet and peered curiously down the long stretch of hallway, trying to make out the noises. Two long days of answering the same questions again and again. Two sleepless nights since she had met with the Godaime.

--

"Hinata, I'm sure you understand the situation you're in."

She bowed her head, trying futilely to not chew on her bottom lip.

"Yes, Godaime-sama."

"Then I'm sure you'll understand that I have to keep you under ANBU watch until we get this thing sorted out."

"Yes, Godaime-sama."

The towering blonde scruntinized the girl, her demeanour strict and professional but not unkind.

"Hinata."

She raised her head in acknowledgement.

"Don't worry. Everything will be fine."

The gentleness in her voice was what unleashed the furiously-contained flood of tears.

"But...but Godaime-sama, I...I..."

The words died on her lips when she saw the older woman's soft smile.

"We understand. Yes, it was a betrayal..."

Hinata winced.

"...but it was unintentional. You will be punished by house arrest for the next three months and will be ordered to reveal everything Uchiha Itachi has taught you. But..."

And here, she lightly rested her hands on the girl's shoulders.

"...you are not a traitor. Do not overly blame yourself."

--

Hinata sighed. She wondered if her father had met with the Hokage. How much more disappointed he must be. She shook her head, the limp strands of unwashed black hair fluttering against her pale cheeks. The whole place seemed oddly quiet all of a sudden.

"Hinata."

It was the voice that had haunted her thoughts for the past few weeks. Hinata whirled around in the direction of the sound, her eyes widening as they came to rest on the barred window of her cell. There he was, perched on the side of the mountain facing her.

"Itachi-san."

She had not seen him since that last time. She did not know how to react.

"Stand back. There's no time."

She recognized the seals he was making and barely managed to brace herself for the oncoming blast.

CRASH

Hinata blinked increduously. In place of the window, there was now a huge hole in the wall. He materialized in front of her.

"Let's go."

"No...no."

The girl shrank back against the bars of her cell. His sudden appearance was so shocking, so unexpected that her brain could not form a proper response. Sharp red eyes glared down at her before he firmly scooped her unresisting body in his arms and leapt out of the building.

Hinata lay frozen against his chest, her mind dimly registering the warmth radiating from beneath his heavy cloak. The sting of wind shrilled against her ears, muting the distant shouts as the pair headed further from town and into the woods. Her mind was still blank and strangely enough, Hinata found that she preferred it that way.

"Here, can you stand?"

Her head nodded automatically and she found herself being slowly lowered to the ground. Manouvering her into the shadows of the heavy oaks, the Uchiha stared down at her silently, not touching her yet not moving away.

"How...how did you get into the Tower?"

"I sent a Kage Bushin clone. It should keep the ANBU busy for a while."

He made it sound so simple. As if the guards and the Hokage were of no importance. Perhaps that was truly how he viewed them. Hinata could not bring herself to look at him. She wanted to apologize for her mistake. To apologize for the fact that now everyone in Konoha was after him again. But somehow she knew her apology would not be accepted or even wanted. Besides, it was not as if everyone had not been after him anyways. They stood there, the moments ticking by audibly.

"I...Sasu..."

"Sasuke?"

She nodded bleakly, head lowered until it nearly touched her chest. She hadn't forgotten his order never to say this name again.

"He...he was so angry. I failed him."

"Failed?"

"I wanted to prove to him...that even if people have done horrible things, that they..."

"That they can still be good inside?"

He finished her sentence for her, uncharacteristic weariness colouring the flat tone of his voice. Hinata nodded again, idly noting that the hem of his long black cloak was ragged and crusted with dirt.

Konoha dirt.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the unexpected, and unwanted, rush of hot tears. It was all because of her.

"Hinata, look at me."

When she gave no indication of hearing, Itachi reached out to gently tip her face up to his. Instead of withdrawing however, his long fingers remained to lightly stroke her chin. Hinata had to force herself to ignore a startling desire to step towards her first source of warmth in the past couple of days.

"Ask me why I did that to him."

The Uchiha Massacre.

Her eyes widened. Of all the conversations she had anticipated having with him after her stupid mistake, this was certainly not one of them. His face was still beautiful, but somehow more drawn than she remembered. But for once, she felt as if he was open, as willing to let her understand him as he was in allowing her gaze to roam over his statuesque features unhindered.

"Why?"

It was barely a whisper. He licked his lips and watched as her luminous gaze followed the movement. She wondered if he could taste her question as it left her.

"I wanted to know if I was strong...if I was different."

"Like everyone said?"

Her sense of empathy was typical; Itachi recalled her acceptance of her cousin. A glimmer of admiration flashed briefly across his eyes.

"Yes, like everyone said."

Hinata was conscious of his continued touch on her chin, his eyes on her face. She did not realize that she had been holding her breath until a whoosh of air escaped her lips at the feel of his long cool finger tracing down her pale cheek.

"You're not pushing me away."

The observation was quiet and she had no answer to give him. Perhaps he had not been expecting one. They stood close together, each fully aware of the seconds ticking by.

"Now do you understand why I wanted to teach you, Hinata?"

She shook her head minutely, gasping when the movement brought her lips in contact with his thumb. A flicker of something appeared in his eyes and she watched in fascination as the black Sharingan dots rotated lazily in response. The scent of pine and musk suddenly grew much stronger as Itachi leaned infinitely closer. Hinata drew in a shuddering breath when those same fingers lingered on the trembling curve of her lower lip.

"I wanted to know if I was normal."

Opaque eyes widened at his words. So that was it...that was what he wanted.

Comparison of what his life could have been. Verification that he was capable of being anything he wanted.

Her lips parted but the question died when she felt his thumb gently slip in to swipe the soft inside of her lip. Transfixed, she watched as Itachi lifted his hand to his mouth and licked her moisture off. His eyes never left hers.

"My goal was the same as it was back then. Different version, same concept."

He was so close she could feel his silky bangs brush against her own.

"People do not change, Hinata."

The silence that followed was heavy, poignant. She wondered briefly if he realized the double meaning of his statement. That, in essence, he was still the same little boy his brother had idolized. That he had agreed with the question she had posed to both Uchihas.

A disturbance in the air broke their reverie and Hinata sagged when she felt his gaze finally release hers. Stepping back, Itachi turned to face the men that landed a few feet from them. The blank mask fell back into place.

"Kakashi. Gai."

--

Itachi turned to look at the small figure braced against the tree. The wide, opal eyes gazed beseechingly back at him, darting back and forth between him and the bound Kakashi and Gai.

"Turn away, Hinata."

"N…no."

She took a step towards him, seemingly deaf to the warning yells of her sensai to run away.

"Itachi-san, please…please don't do this."

Blood red eyes stared back at her, the black dots of the Sharingan rotating as he prepared to use the Tsuoyomi. Without a word, a Bushen clone appeared next to Hinata. It gripped her arms firmly and turned her away from the fight. Holding her shaking form to his body, the Itachi-clone made some simple genjusu seals and Hinata found herself in a dream-like world of open fields and sakura trees waving gently in the breeze. Distant screams unnerved her but her mind was relaxingly blank; she was vaguely aware of a warmth surrounding her body as she leaned against something solid and oddly familiar. Surely tree trunks didn't give off heat?

The illusion vanished and Hinata found her cheek buried in the folds of Itachi's cloak. Nervously, she lifted her head and was relieved to see that his eyes had returned to black.

"Itachi-san…what…what happened?"

Pulling back slightly, she shook her head and the memory of the fight returned in full force. Gasping, she swung around to see both sensei on the ground, unconscious. He allowed her to run towards them and watched as she anxiously shook Kakashi's shoulder.

"They won't wake up."

"Why did you do this? Why did you hurt them?"

Tear-filled white eyes met his and he frowned. Still standing unmoved from their previous position under the tree, his answer was soft, expressionless.

"If I hadn't, they would have hurt me. Is that what you would have preferred, Hinata?"

The girl struggled to find an answer.

"Iie. But you could have just walked away, you didn't have to do…do this…to them!"

Wringing her hands desperately, she dropped her gaze to stare at the ground, willing him to understand.

"You…you didn't do this to me…you tried to protect me from it."

He sighed and walked slowly towards her, carelessly stepping over the repulsive green-clad body of Gai.

"No, I didn't do it to you. But then again, you are not them and they are not you."

Hinata shook her head, unsure what to say or do. "Itachi-san…Itachi-san, please…"

"What do you want from me, Hinata?"

A pale hand emerged from within the folds of his cloak. Pausing before it reached its destination, Itachi gently caressed her cheek, pleased when she didn't flinch or withdraw. Catching a tear from the corner of her eye, he rubbed the wetness between his fingers and slipped his hand to hold the back of her head. Hinata's eyes widened in surprise when he bent and whispered his lips across her cheeks. When he caught her tears with his tongue before warming her skin with his lips.

There it was again. She remembered that feeling, that scent.

"Wha…what…?"

"I'm sorry."

For what I did last time.

The memory of their last encounter rose up between them like a heavy, obscuring fog. Hinata trembled, shaking her head minutely. She did not know whether she did it to clear the images in her head, to reject his apology or to signify that it no longer mattered. All she knew was that that was in the past and now they had to deal with the present.

She knew that they had no future.

"Don't cry."

He pressed his mouth against hers more firmly, swallowing her little gasp. Hinata's nerveless hands left Kakashi's shoulder to clutch Itachi's cloak. Running his tongue along her bottom lip, Itachi patiently coaxed a response from her and slipped in to taste her. She was as sweet as he could have wished for.

Hinata let out a soft murmur when he pulled back reluctantly. She was defenseless against this type ofattack when it came from him; Itachi wryly noted that perhaps he was as well. Exerting some of his remaining chakra to activate the Tsuoyomi, Itachi tilted her chin up to look him shyly in the eye. Transporting her into a red and black illusion of the woods, he sifted his fingers through her silky black hair.

The memory and feel of her would have to last him a long time.

"From here on, you will experience 24 hours of pleasure with me."

The Tsuoyomi version of him wrapped his arms around her and resumed his attentions. Pulling her to the ground, he reveled in her soft sounds of delight.

-o-O-o-

Itachi glanced at the path leading to the clearing. Rescue squads were coming. The unconscious figures of Kakashi and Gai lay in the dirt, weak and defeated while Hinata was curled in his arms, gratifyingly exhausted and asleep. Placing her gently on the ground next to the two Jounin, Itachi rested his forehead against hers and inhaled deeply before dropping one last kiss on her parted lips.

Straightening, he smoothed the hair from her face and, with a single, long gaze at her peaceful face, disappeared. For her sake, he did not intend to return to Konoha again.

"Goodbye, Hyuuga Hinata."

-

The End

-


A/N: I know that some of you might find this ending...unfulfilling...and I completely understand. I personally prefer reading stories in which the characters end up together too.

But I really thought that this conclusion would be more realistic since I just can't see Hinata ditching her family and friends to run off with Itachi, nor can I see Itachi being forgiven for everything he's done. This is just me and I sincerely apologise if I disappointed anyone. Also, I'm not a fan of fighting scenes so I tried to skip over it as best as I could. SORRY! The whole chapter is a bit rushed so if there's anything that anyone thinks needs improvement, please do tell me- I welcome all comments and criticisms!